It's been a busy week for the Portland Timbers, with the club shipping Vytas to D.C. and bringing back Jorge Villafaña and Lucas Melano back ahead of the close of the summer transfer window on Wednesday night, and, on Saturday night at Providence Park, it might conclude in historic fashion.
Last week, the Timbers tied their club record 15-game unbeaten streak with a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union. This week, they go for the record outright in what should be a highly entertaining Cascadia clash against the Vancouver Whitecaps (8:00 p.m., TV on ROOT Sports).
The Whitecaps played their top team in the first leg of the Canadian Championship on Wednesday night in Vancouver, and led Toronto FC 2-1 until a 96th minute own goal from former TFC center back Doneil Henry gave the visitors the upper hand with the tie heading East next week.
The midweek games might impact Saturday's lineup — Carl Robinson hinted at a formation change, saying, "we might slightly adjust the formation, which will be important for us, depends on the way they play" — but not all that significantly. Sitting seventh in the West, eighth on points per game, the 'Caps need points.
They've had an up-and-down season, with the attack improved behind Kei Kamara but the defense — long the team's calling card under Robinson — has badly regressed without Tim Parker. They've shipped a conference-worst 46 goals through just 23 games. It's been a dumpster fire.
That said, the biggest story of Vancouver's year, has unquestionably been Canadian wunderkind Alphonso Davies, who was sold several weeks ago to Bayern Munich for an MLS-record $22 million fee.
Davies, who is just 17 and until this season had just 11 starts to his name, has been sensational. He's staying with Vancouver through the rest of the season before heading to Germany, and will likely be making his second and final appearance at Providence Park tomorrow.
UPDATE: So much for that. Davies is out with a groin injury.
Robinson has clearly spent some time mulling over his team's setup for this weekend, and it'll be interesting to see what he decides. Vancouver has spent much of the season in a 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 hybrid with two central midfielders, but in their game at Seattle at the end of July, they added a center mid and went to a 4-3-3.
It didn't work. The Whitecaps were thoroughly outplayed (no small feat, considering the Sounders' form this year) in a 2-0 loss.
The 'Caps have not yet spent any time in back five, the formation that has emerged as the Timbers' top choice over the last two weeks, and the one that they're most likely to see on Saturday.
That's because, though Giovani Savarese has not often used the same look in three straight weeks this year, Vancouver is a very strong counter attacking team — thanks to Davies as well as the likes of Yordy Reyna and Christian Techera — that prefers to play without the ball.
The 5-3-2 is difficult to counter against. It's also turbocharged Alvas Powell, and against the Whitecaps' woeful defense, he could be in for another big day. The Timbers should be very active in the final third, and expect to score multiple goals.
1 - Attinella
16 - Valentin
18 - Cascante
13 - Olum
33 - Mabiala
2 - Powell
21 - Chara
11 - Polo
10 - Blanco
8 - Valeri (C)
99 - Armenteros
— Of the Timbers' two marquee additions this week, Villafaña doesn't get back to Portland until Sunday while Melano arrived on Thursday and is not expected to be available.
— David Guzmán made a very compelling case to keep his spot last weekend against Philadelphia, and, depending on how wary Savarese is of Vancouver's front-line, he might get the nod over Polo.
The Timbers went three for three against the Whitecaps last year, beating them 2-1 twice at Providence Park and once at BC Place. The pick of the goals? This Darlington Nagbe belter.
One for the record books: Timbers 3, Whitecaps 1.